Santacruzan brings pageantry to Silver Spring, Maryland

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — The May Flower Festival, popularly known in the Philippines as Santacruzan, is an annual ritual which honors the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena of Constantinople, known as Reyna Elena (Constantine the Great was her son). The Spaniards introduced the pageant in the 1800s. Santa Cruz means “Holy Cross.”

Msgr. Mariano Balbago Jr. of the St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Fil-Am Ministry spearheaded the event. This local religious group started in 2000, organizing Filipino religious activities in Maryland. The monthly gathering of a handful friends has grown into a larger fellowship.

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Msgr. Mariano Balbago Jr. of the St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland spearheaded the annual Santacruzan three years ago. CONTRIBUTED

They all consider themselves part of a family. Every third Sunday of the month is always reserved for the ministry and has become a passion for the Fil-Am Ministry council, officers and members. Everyone contributes in one way or another so their monthly gatherings – a deep expression of their Catholic faith –  will be meaningful

The Fil-Am Ministry Council used to celebrate this event inside the church. But this year’s Santacruzan, the third in a row, included a festive procession around downtown Silver Spring with police escorts.

Mylene Lopez (left) and Jeanette Abella are among the Fil-Am Ministry leaders who organize the Santacruzan every year. CONTRIBUTED

Today, this celebration has drawn the support of the Legion of Mary, many parishioners, volunteers, sponsors, altar services and religious leaders like Tony and Denia Calaro, Carl and Jeanette Abella, Manny and Mylene Lopez, Dhel and Gina Freolo, Sonny and Patsy Santiago, Maria Cristina Sian and Erwin Howard.

Jeanette Abella, one of the community leaders in Maryland, said she is so proud of the Filipino heritage and blessed to do this special event in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary.  “In the Ministry, we don’t mind spending lots of time, energy and effort and even money preparing for the Santacruzan,” she says.

This year’s Santacruzan queens from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. CONTRIBUTED

“It feels like home, although growing up in the Philippines most Santacruzans are fundraisers and you got to spend money to be a sagala.  We don’t do that here.  We are the ones inviting and giving roles to ladies or men and children who are willing to participate.  Participants tells us that they feel special and blessed to be chosen.”

The author is assisted by husband Barry (left), Bobby and Nina Tamayo, as she prepares to join the procession. CONTRIBUTED

In this year’s Santacruzan, under the blazing sun, the procession was blessed with 51 Queens, with more than 12 children as angels and bearers.  The procession was followed by a religious service, highlighted by the offering of flowers to the blessed Virgin Mary and blessings of May birthday celebrants and mothers.

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TAGS: Constantine, Filipino Catholic traditions, Holy Cross, religious celebration, religious procession, Santacruzan, St. Helena, True Cross
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